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I hope that the Justice Secretary will use this opportunity to say something to our staff, who are in need of reassurance or some statement from their employer
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about how they are going to be treated. Does he know when the Bill might be enacted? Is it possible that we can do this quickly, perhaps within two months? It will be easier to do it if the current arrangements for staff transfer, under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 or some similar arrangement, apply and if staff have been told that they will transfer so that the system can continue much as it has up to this point. If that is not the intention, a good employer would warn staff and start consulting on what the arrangements will be, and it might be quite difficult to hit this particular deadline.

Although I welcome the spirit of my hon. Friend’s new clause—it is right that we need clarity over the data protection aspects—I am worried about the general issue of whether this body can be set up quickly and whether the Justice Secretary thinks that its staffing arrangements will be more competent and better than those that we currently have, and, if so, why he thinks that. Above all, he owes to our staff, now—it should have been done some time ago—proper procedures for informing and consulting them.

Mr. Bone: My right hon. Friend talks about the time question, but should the change not be delayed until after Sir Christopher Kelly reports? Otherwise, we could have a complete fiasco with what he says.

Mr. Redwood: Yes, and some of us made that point in previous debates, when it was more relevant. The relevance of timing here, which I am sure my hon. Friend had in mind, is that the new clause is about the timing of part of the transfer of duties. As he and I are trying to point out, the duty cannot be transferred until the body has been set up and is working. We need to be satisfied that it is working competently and sensibly.

There are a lot of people involved, and the way in which they have been treated is shoddy and appalling. I am sure that if it had happened in the private sector, the Government would have been jumping up and down complaining and asking whether things had been done properly. I hope that we will have a statement on the matter, and that the new clause will give us an opportunity to probe a little more how all the arrangements for a smooth transfer will be put in place if the Government are determined to carry on with the establishment of this quango.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have to announce to the House the result of a Division deferred from a previous day on the Question relating to environmental protection. The Ayes were 269 and the Noes were 196, so the Ayes have it.

I shall also announce the result of a Division deferred from a previous day on the Question relating to the summer Adjournment. The Ayes were 254 and the Noes were 212, so the Ayes have it.

I shall also announce the result of a Division deferred from a previous day on the Question relating to notices of questions etc. during September 2009. The Ayes were 465 and the Noes were 3, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division lists are published at the end of today’s debates.]

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Mr. Garnier: It is a matter of regrettable record that in the past 18 months or so, this House in its various guises has been in dispute with the Information Commissioner about applications in relation to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the keeping of our expenses records and so forth. That has led to matters being taken to the High Court on two occasions, at considerable public expense. None of us—or at least only a very few of us, and I was not one of them—was asked for our view on that matter, but we are now none the less staring at the consequences of the High Court’s decision. [Interruption.] It is interesting how one gets conflicting instructions from time to time. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), “Relax, mon brave.”

That having been said, I wonder whether the Secretary of State, or whichever Minister is to respond to this very short debate, will be able to tell me whether they or any other arm of the Government have communicated with the new Information Commissioner to see how he is approaching the Bill. For example, I wonder whether he has a view about whether the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority should become the data controller for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998.

I entirely agree with the thrust of the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) made, but we need somebody to deal with the matter. Unless that is explicit in the Bill, it will cause unnecessary confusion. If we are not very careful, we could get into the same sort of difficulty as we did in the past.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) for raising this matter. It may help if I explain how the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 will work in respect of the new authority.

Section 1 of the Data Protection Act defines a data controller as

Whether someone is a data controller is not a matter of election by that individual but is subject to an objective test. When IPSA is determining the purposes for which, or the manner in which, any personal data that it holds are to be processed, it will become a data controller. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter, but I hope that he will accept that the new clause is not necessary.

The new clause mentions “two months”. On Second Reading, which seems two years ago, but was only two days, several stirring victories and one defeat ago, I gave an undertaking about the likely time scale. I suggested that, with the likelihood of Sir Christopher Kelly’s recommendations being available in October, and taking account of the time for running a competition to appoint the senior people to the authority, for the authority then to appoint a chief executive and for the transfer of staff, which the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) raised, we are aiming for Sir Christopher Kelly’s proposals, and the new authority, to start operating on 1 January next year. It is not remotely likely that the authority will be up and running in two months. Assuming that we get Royal Assent by the end of July, that would mean establishing the authority by the end of September.

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I therefore hope that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) accepts that the first part of the new clause is unnecessary and the second is not achievable. Apart from that, it is fine. It has provided an important platform for a useful debate.

Under clause 14, clauses 12, 13 and 14 come into force by statutory instrument, and different days can be appointed for different purposes. That is standard form, so the exact time at which the authority comes into force depends on when it is ready. I should also point out that that, like the Bill, this will be the formal responsibility of the Leader of the House, because the measure is essentially a creature spawned by the House, not by a Department—although I have been delighted to play my role in ensuring that it is improved, as it has been.

As the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton will recall, paragraph 27 of schedule 1 and paragraph 10 of schedule 2 provide that IPSA and the commissioner become public authorities for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000; the House has agreed that. Those provisions will come into force when the authority has some information that will make it the subject of FOI requests. That will happen as soon as it becomes operational. I hope that that helps, and that the hon. Gentleman will therefore be willing to withdraw the new clause.

Alan Duncan: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his comments. I suppose that I was trying to make a plea for the appointments not to take so long that the authority does not assume responsibilities until early next year, because in the meantime we will have the rag ends of another year’s published receipts. If there is an unclear grip on that process because of the transition of the responsibilities from the House to the new authority, that is likely to compound the problem.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene, because now that we are no longer in Committee I cannot speak twice except with the leave of the Chair. I simply want to say that we aim to make progress as fast as we can now that we have had Second Reading and Committee—taking account, of course, of possible further change at the other end of the building.

Alan Duncan: I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

C lause, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4

Dealing with claims under the scheme

Mr. Straw: I beg to move amendment 7, page 3, line 13, at end insert—

‘(7) The scheme may provide for an allowance to which a member is entitled under the scheme to be paid to another person at the member’s direction; and references in this Act to the payment of an allowance to a member are to be read accordingly.’.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments 8 to 11.

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Amendment 2, in clause 13, page 9, line 24, leave out from ‘section’ to end of line 25 and insert

‘shall not be made unless a draft of the instrument has first been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the House of Commons.’.

Government amendments 12 to 15.

Mr. Straw: Colleagues will find Government amendment 7 on page 1059 of the Order Paper. It makes it clear that although allowances relate to a Member, money under allowances can be paid to somebody else, which may include our staff or those with whom we contract.

6 pm

Government amendments 8, 9 and 10 are relatively minor, and I commend them to the House. As for Government amendment 12, the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) will recall that he asked whether a serving member of the senior judiciary could be appointed. We are now making that clear in the Bill, and I am happy to oblige.

Government amendments 13, 14 and 15 will require the Speaker, rather than IPSA, to lay the relevant notices and orders before the House, which is important. That is consistent with, for example, the arrangements in respect of the Boundary Commission. As the Secretary of State for Justice, I am the conduit for orders from the Boundary Commission for changes to boundaries, but I am required to lay the order before the House and ensure that it is put to a vote. Our amendments square the circle, in that there has to be a sponsor for the provisions, namely the Speaker, but they have to come before the House. However, what it does with those orders is entirely a matter for the House.

Mr. Grieve: I welcome the Government’s amendments. Government amendment 7 clearly reflects the comments that were made on an earlier occasion about the reality of how our allowances work in this place. Amendment 12, which takes on board the concerns that were expressed about members of the judiciary, also seems sensible.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): Does my hon. and learned Friend not agree that amendment 7 is a classic illustration of what happens when we try to rush such legislation through? That such a basic reality had been missed in the original drafting makes one’s jaw drop at the bad legislation that we are now witnessing.

Mr. Grieve: I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend. At some point in the next hour, we may or may not get Third Reading. However, the reality is that the Bill in its present form is incoherent and filleted. It will have to be put back together again, but it is extraordinary that that will happen in another place. Yet again, a Bill that intimately concerns this House will, at the end of the day, leave this House in a form in which it could never go on the statute book. If ever there was a lesson to be learned about the failings of our procedures, which, as has rightly been said, are just as important as any other failings in our allowances in diminishing the standing of this place, it is that. Although I welcome the one or two amendments that we are dealing with to tidy things up, the truth is that we are tidying something up that, at the moment, is a hovel of a piece of legislation. A great deal will have to be done to it before it is inflicted on the world outside.

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Sir Robert Smith: I welcome the fact that we have at least some time on Report in which to see some improvements and acknowledge some of the requirements that arose in Committee. However, I share the concerns of others that the Bill has not been properly scrutinised in this House and will need to be dealt with in the other place.

Sir George Young: I am grateful for Government amendment 7, which reproduces, at 10 times the length, the four words that I had drafted as amendment 6 to clause 4 yesterday. I want briefly to speak to amendment 2, in the hope that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell) and I might score a final quick single before stumps are finally drawn.

The order-making power in clause 13 is wide ranging and substantial. It provides for the Government and the Speaker to draw up a scheme for transferring property rights and liabilities of the House to IPSA and for the order containing such a scheme to be subject to annulment by either House of Parliament, which may or may not lead to a debate and a vote.

As drafted, the clause is objectionable on two grounds. First, it does not guarantee proper scrutiny of such orders; secondly, it gives the other place power to annul a scheme that affects only this House. The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough would deal with both objections by requiring all orders containing transitional provision to be laid in draft before the Commons only and by making them subject to the affirmative procedure order, thus obliging the Government to make time available either on the Floor of the House or Upstairs to provide the opportunity for a vote to take place. I hope that the amendment will find favour with Government Front Benchers.

Sir Alan Beith: Amendment 7 is obviously necessary, but I am afraid that it will never be sufficient to disabuse sections of the press of the view that MPs claim, personally collect and leave in their bank accounts a wide range of allowances for constituency office rents and staff wages. Numerous newspaper stories still appear implying that those allowances, which are actually transferred to other people, are for the personal profit of the Member. I have often thought that a similar analysis of the salary of the editor of a newspaper that attributed to him the wages of that newspaper’s staff and the rent of the building would produce similarly bizarre effects. I am glad that the Government have realised that direct payment is a valuable part of the system.

Mr. Redwood: I want to highlight Government amendment 9, which the Justice Secretary did not explain. It is interesting because it strikes out lines 5 to 7 on page 8, which define

as meaning

I presume that the reference to the Leader of the House of Lords is being knocked out because it might be thought inconvenient—for reasons of privilege and their lordships’ interest—to have any reference to the Lords when the Bill goes to the other place. That leads one to question the original intent. It looks to me as if the
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drafting suggested that the Lords should be covered, but the reference is being struck out quickly from the Bill before it goes to the other end of the corridor.

Mr. Straw: Let me explain that this relates to the definition clause and particularly to the tenure period for members of IPSA and the commissioner. It was agreed without argument across the Chamber that the commissioner or members of the authority could be removed only on the basis of an address from both Houses of Parliament, but there was a restriction on how that address could get on to the Floor of either House: it had to be moved either by the Leader of the House of Commons or by the Leader of the House of Lords. We agreed to take that out. That being the case, and with no substantive reference to the Leader of the House of Lords anywhere else in the Bill, the definition could be dropped as completely redundant. That is the reason for the change.

Mr. Redwood: It is useful to have elicited that explanation and have it put on the record before the Bill goes to the other place, but I rest my case. The original intention was that both Houses should be covered. We are now assured that that is not the immediate intention, and I trust that this issue, which might be of considerable interest in the other place, will be teased out further in any debate there.

Amendment 7 agreed to.

Clause 5

MPs’ financial interests rules

Amendment made : 8, in page 3, line 38, leave out subsection (9).— (Mr. Straw.)

Clause 7


Mr. Jenkin: I beg to move amendment 6, page 4, line 33, at end insert—

‘(1A) Any investigations under this section shall be deemed to be proceedings in Parliament as expressed in the Bill of Rights 1689, notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act.’

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 4, page 4, line 42, at end add—

‘( ) Subsection (4) does not apply where the Commissioner finds that the member who was the subject of the investigation complied fully with the Members of Parliament allowances scheme and with the code of conduct relating to financial interests as they relate to that investigation.’.

Amendment 3, page 5, line 1, leave out ‘IPSA’ and insert ‘Commissioner’.

Amendment 1, in clause 13, page 8, line 45, leave out subsections (5) and (6).

Mr. Jenkin: I shall be extremely brief. The amendment is, very logically, an extension of the principle of removing clause 10 from the Bill. This is to make sure that investigations under clause 7

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